Wow, Seekerville knows how to throw a birthday bash!!! The food, the prizes, the posts, the comments rock!! I can’t wait to see who will be our grand prize winner. To get your name in the pot, keep commenting!
I escaped Unpubbed Island when I sold my debut Courting Miss Adelaide to Love Inspired for their new historical line that launched in 2008. I've written six novels and a novella for three wonderful Love Inspired editors, Melissa Endlich, Emily Rodmell and Tina James. These editors have taught me a lot about writing for Love Inspired.
Most of what they want is what all editors want: Three-dimensional, likable characters with strong goals, motivations and conflicts. They like riveting plots and dialogue, rising stakes and sexual tension. They want authors to show, not tell. They want a central premise that makes the story matter. Oh, and don’t forget varied sentence structure, good grammar and a strong voice… The list is long! I won’t attempt to enumerate everything that comprises a great read. For more information check out Love Inspired’s submission guidelines at eHarlequin.com
I learned some of the following lessons the hard way. Not in the woodshed--this is modern day after all and my editors are wonderful, kind women, but who wants to rewrite when we can do it right the first time. Here's six things I've learned writing for Love Inspired.
The Importance of first lines and first chapters.
What editor wouldn't want strong first lines and chapters? But, at Love Inspired first chapters that grip the reader are essential. Authors never know how many editors will be reading that first chapter so make sure those first lines and first chapters sing. Read the line you’re targeting to see how those authors hooked their editors. A tip: You can read the first pages online at Amazon and often at an author’s website. For suggestions on writing those first lines, check out my post Hooks, Lines and Sinkers here.
The Importance of hooks.
Love Inspired readers are drawn to tried and true hooks like secret babies, marriages of convenience and cowboys. Hooks not only help sell your book but they also give the marketing and art departments the vision for your story and the know how to package and promote it. Look at the covers and back covers’ copy in the line you’re targeting for examples of hooks that lured an editor, your first reader, to buy the book.
The importance of bringing the hero and heroine together quickly.
And I mean quickly. On the first page is nice. If an earlier meeting works for your story, in the first couple of lines is even better. If it doesn't work for your story, the cute meet or inciting incident (what brings the hero and heroine together) doesn't have to be that fast. But bring them together within a few pages. Love Inspired’s smaller word count doesn't give much wiggle room for developing setting or showing much of the characters’ everyday world before the action starts. Readers are eager to meet the hero and heroine. Tip: A word of caution: Be careful not to introduce another character before the reader meets both the hero and heroine. The reader may latch onto a secondary character, believing s/he’s the hero or heroine and be confused.
The importance of starting with trouble.
Conflict is story. The reason readers keep turning pages. When you bring the hero and heroine together, give a hint at the trouble. Not a long passage of back story, but something that says they’re in for a fun ride. In Mary's books that means someone gets shot. Though Mary will deny it, flying bullets don't work for every story.
The following first lines open two of my books. Both first lines introduce the hero in the heroine’s point of view and hint at conflict.
Mary Graves couldn't believe her eyes. And the gall of that man.
One glance at the rogue across the way curled Abigail Wilson’s gloved hands into a stranglehold on her skirts.
Words like gall and rogue shout trouble. Trouble in the fictional world entertains. That’s vital if we hope to keep the reader in the story long enough to see how brilliantly we've brought growth and happiness to our characters.
The importance of using both the hero and heroine’s point of view quickly.
It’s not enough to bring the hero and heroine together quickly. Love Inspired editors want the reader to get inside both of their heads. This will take a little longer but give both points of view as soon as possible so readers connect to both characters quickly and get a peek at the trouble and/or attraction between them.Tips: Typically Love Inspired prefers changing points of view at chapter and scene breaks.
The Importance of keeping the hero and heroine together throughout the story.
A romance novel has two protagonists. The story may center on the one over the other, but both the hero and heroine are important in a romance and need strong goals. The hero or heroine may also be the antagonist if she/he is out to stop the other character from achieving her/his goal. Readers want to see these characters together on the page. When they’re not together, they should think about each other. After all these two people are attracted, often when that’s the last thing they want and as the story progresses, they'll start falling in love even if they don't recognize or admit it. Their thoughts may be warm and tender or cold and harsh or somewhere in between. I’m not suggesting long passages of introspection. Something in the setting or a snippet of reaction or dialogue can be used to bring the love interest to mind. Another way to keep the romance in the forefront of the story is for the hero and heroine to talk about each other to a secondary character, perhaps a mentor. Tip: Remember the romance isn't the plot. The romance complicates the plot. Show the attraction is adding conflict for the characters. Again, read the line to see how published authors keep the focus on the romance no matter what's happening with the plot.
Hope these suggestions help if you're targeting Love Inspired. If I've overlooked another aspect of craft that you've learned is important to LI editors, please share your tips in the comments.
Before we head to the buffet, I want to mention something else I've learned writing for Love Inspired. Readers have expectations.
Readers love animals in their stories. I’m allergic to cats and dogs so I don’t always think to include a pet but I'm learning.
Readers love epilogues. In my fourth book, Wanted: A Family, I tied up the hero and heroine’s Happily Ever After ending but left the unwed mothers in the story dangling. I heard from readers. Thankfully when my editor asked me to write a novella, I used the opportunity to give those secondary characters their own HEA ending. I still struggle with writing epilogues. My editors haven't told me to, but if the fit your story, readers appreciate them.
Today I'm giving away two prizes. For readers, I'll be giving away a copy of one of my books, eBook or print, winners choice. For writers, I will chat on the phone about writing and critique the first chapter of your story. Leave a comment if you're interested in one or both prizes.
This morning I brought egg bakes, blueberry pancakes and zucchini bread for breakfast. Come back for lunch for tasty Cobb salads and croissants. Oh, and crunchy apples with caramel dip and pumpkin pie for dessert. Yay, dessert for lunch shouts we’re partying in Seekerville!
Janet Dean grew up in a family who cherished the past and had a strong creative streak. Her father recounted fascinating stories, like his father before him. The tales they told instilled in Janet a love of history and the desire to write. She married her college sweetheart, and taught first grade before leaving to rear two daughters, but Janet never lost interest in American history and the accounts of strong men and women of faith who built this country. With her daughters grown, she eagerly turned to Inspirational historical romance. Visit Janet at her Website: www.janetdean.net